April 26, 2018
In January of 2016 the VA issued a Draft Master Plan to address the issues raised by a lawsuit brought by Veterans and a descendant of the relatives who donated the land to the US government in 1888. The goal of the Master Plan is to provide permanent supportive housing and related services to Veterans, notably those within the chronically homeless, severely disabled, aging, and female populations.
Following the conclusion of the formal master planning process, and prior to any additional development of the VA, Federal law requires that a NEPA (National Environmental Policy
Act) review take place (similar to an Environmental Impact Report) to ensure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before final decisions regarding the Master Plan are made and actions taken by VA. To-date, this review and analysis has not occurred and/or been disseminated to the community.
Last week BHA was surprised to learn that a hearing was to take place April 26 regarding the VA’s proposal to renovate Building 207 and the development and re-use of other existing buildings and parcels located on the north-side of the Campus as well as the hiring of a Principal Developer to finance, design, construct, renovate, operate, and maintain those housing units.
While the BHA supports swift action by the West LA VA to provide housing and supportive services for homeless Veterans, we do not believe it justifies violating or bypassing the required Master Plan and National Environmental Policy
Act process, including a traffic/parking study important to the surrounding community. It has been over two years since the legislation authorizing Enhanced-Use Leases, and there is still not even a draft of the required studies that are intended to inform the public and decision-makers regarding adverse impacts in order that mitigations and alternatives can be considered. One example of our concerns is the possibility of a road that would exit the VA near the dog park south of the post office and add to traffic congestion on Barrington and Sunset. BHA does not want to slow down homeless Veteran housing. On the contrary, BHA wants the VA to speed up completion of its Draft Master Plan in accordance with all State and Federal laws, including environmental (NEPA) and historic preservation (NHPA) laws.
The purpose of the Federal NEPA is to provide information and transparency to the decision-makers and the public BEFORE important decisions are made. The VA has been strongly criticized by both its advocates and critics for not having the NEPA compliance done by now. The fact that the VA has been less than diligent in preparing the required disclosure reports is not an excuse to waive or bypass the requirements, particularly when the decisions affect matters for the next 50 - 75 years.
We have met with the leadership of Veterans service organizations who represent approximately 150,000 Veterans, and who told us that they essentially agree with the BHA position that the required disclosure process must precede the proposals that the VA is trying to rush through. In the meantime, there are several temporary shelter alternatives that the VA could be establishing for homeless Veterans that would provide immediate assistance, and would not be subject to the NEPA Process.
You can see full Draft Master Plan here
Here is the letter
we sent to the VA asking for documentation on traffic and environmental studies. Without these studies, we believe the Plan is absent a vital component proving its legitimacy.
In the meantime, homeless veterans should be served by the VA on the campus in various capacities, including temporary housing and parking accommodations.